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The ABC has quoted both Dr Carnley (Anglican Primate of Australia) and Archbishop Hickey (Catholic Archbishop of Perth) as saying there is no need for a Royal Commission into clergy sexual abuse*. They would say that, wouldn't they?

It is my belief that church structures are so different to those of society that any Royal Commission into child sexual abuse must have a parallel inquiry into clergy sexual abuse. There are currently approximately 12,500 clergy in Australia, spread over many denominations/religions, and self-report surveys have indicated around 10-12% have had sexual relations with a parishioner and 23% report sexually inappropriate behaviour.  If, as other statistics indicate, the number of victims per abuser averages around 50, then for any generation of clergy there are anywhere between 62,500 and 143,750 victims.

A Royal Commission is needed to determine answers to the following questions:

  1. In what ways do the specific structures of churches facilitate cover-up?
  2. Are self-created, self-monitored procedures for dealing with sexual misconduct complaints sufficient, or is there a need for an independent regulatory body?
  3. Why are clergy exempt from mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse?
  4. Why are clergy not subject to standards equivalent to other professionals with regard to the professional-client relationship?
  5. Does the blurring of boundaries between the professional and private lives of clergy increase the likelihood of abuse?
  6. Why is the incidence of sexual abuse statistically as high in (supposedly more moral) church circles as it is in the general population?
  7. Are "gag orders" (blanket confidentiality clauses), imposed by churches as part of monetary settlements, illegal and unenforceable where the effect is to cover up a crime, as was recently argued by law enforcement officials in America?
  8. What combination of current or possible church structures is most likely to prevent future sexual abuse?

* http://www.abc.net.au/news/2002/03/item20020317002010_1.htm

*

Following the announcement of the national Royal Commission into church abuse, and the call for submissions, I offered the following submission to the Secretariat:

24th November 2012

To the Secretariat
Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse
royalcommissionsecretariat@pmc.gov.au

 

As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and a longtime advocate for and supporter of clergy abuse victims, I welcome the advent of a Royal Commission into sexual abuse within the churches, and (as an Anglican victim) particularly its extension beyond the Catholic Church.

My case was examined by the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service (Paedophile Enquiry) and is summarised in Vol V. of the report – page 1004 Case Study no. 1 – and in the transcripts of the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service, pages 24762-24925. (Since my name was the subject of a suppression order at the time of the Royal Commission hearings, I am identified in those references only as AC2, and the offending minister is identified by the codename AC1.)  However, this only encompasses a small portion of the total action I took in seeking to have my complaint heard, and I would like to offer the national Royal Commission the opportunity to examine both what the NSW Royal Commission covered and what went far beyond it.

In a brief outline:

1980-1983:    Abuse occurred; I was 14-17yo at the time, and the perpetrator was my parish minister.

1985:             My father reported the abuse to the diocese (Anglican, Sydney).  No action was taken.

1995:             I reported the abuse to police.

Jan 1996:       DPP refused to press charges, saying it was a consensual relationship, despite me being under the age of consent.

Feb 1996:      I reported the abuse to the diocese.  The minister was asked to resign quietly, with effect from 6 months in the future.  At that time the diocese had a 12 month statute of limitations on misconduct complaints (Tribunal Ordinance, 1962).

April 1996:     I reported the abuse to the Royal Commission.

May 1996:     The Royal Commission heard evidence from me and the church over two days.

1996-1997:    I continued to seek assistance and a just response from the church.

1997:             The church simply began ignoring me, and I investigated the possibility of a no win, no fee civil suit.

1998:             Claim lodged in the District Court. 

                      My website – www.clergyabuseaustralia.org – went live.

2001:             Hearings to extend the statute of time limitation (for the DC claim) were held over 4.5 days.  The motion was denied, despite the judge agreeing that it was clear that abuse had occurred.

2003:             New archbishop (Peter Jensen) came to office.  He initiated a waiver of the court costs judgement debt, and sought my cooperation with developing a diocesan compensation scheme, through which I was invited to claim as part of the development process.

2004-5:          Ongoing negotiations with the church as to the terms of the Deed of Release, including removal of the “gag order” which had been in early drafts.

2006:             I finally received compensation and an apology from the archbishop (though not from the perpetrator, the former archbishop, or the bishop to whom my father reported the abuse), and the minister was defrocked.

During this process, I have advocated not only on my own behalf but also acted as a voice for victims – on TV, radio, in newspapers, and via my website.  As a result, I have dealt with thousands of victims from across all denominations and faiths, and heard many accounts of church reactions which have covered up complaints and retraumatised the victims, and I believe that the knowledge and insights gained may be of help to this new Royal Commission.

Ten years ago I published suggested terms of reference for a Royal Commission on my website, which were as follows:

1.      In what ways do the specific structures of churches facilitate cover-up?

2.      Are self-created, self-monitored procedures for dealing with sexual misconduct complaints sufficient, or is there a need for an independent regulatory body?

3.      Why are clergy exempt from mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse?

4.      Why are clergy not subject to standards equivalent to other professionals with regard to the professional-client relationship?

5.      Does the blurring of boundaries between the professional and private lives of clergy increase the likelihood of abuse?

6.      Why is the incidence of sexual abuse statistically as high in (supposedly more moral) church circles as it is in the general population?

7.      Are "gag orders" (blanket confidentiality clauses), imposed by churches as part of monetary settlements, illegal and unenforceable where the effect is to cover up a crime, as was recently argued by law enforcement officials in America?

8.      What combination of current or possible church structures is most likely to prevent future sexual abuse?

(http://www.clergyabuseaustralia.org/rcterms.htm)

 

In addition to the terms then suggested, I would add:

  1. How can civic laws ensure that the sanctity of the confessional does not override the safety and wellbeing of current, past and potential abuse victims?

  2. Should confirmed abusers be mandatorily defrocked?

  3. What measures might be put in place to ensure that abusive religious leaders do not simply change denominations or faiths if expelled from practice in one denomination?

  4. What changes would need to be made to civic laws to ensure that church hierarchies are legally responsible as well as spiritually responsible for their officers?

  5. How can churches ensure that abuse survivors are represented on panels which revise policies and/or investigate complaints?

  6. Have changes in protocols for dealing with church abuse been implemented retrospectively, and have past complainants been advised of any increased empowerment under new protocols?

I firmly believe that in order to address the issues properly, a Royal Commission must a) be national in scope, b) examine all denominations and faiths, and c) analyse the underlying causes that operate particularly within faith structures.  In my opinion any subdivision of the enquiry ought to be along denominational lines rather than state lines, although cross-checking would be required in order to see patterns of perpetrator movement between denominations and faiths.  It would also be desirable to look at a) adult victims (ie. how the exercise of religious power impairs ability to consent), b) how the varied structures of different denominations impact the process of lodging a complaint and/or legal action, c) whether a cross-denominational, cross-faith committee should be set up to enquire into any and all religious abuse complaints, and d) whether an office of Religious Abuse Ombudsman should be instigated.

It is true that a long-running Commission will mean that changes are not implemented as soon as survivors would wish.  On the other hand, the very presence of an ongoing Commission will (and did in the past, in my experience) incite the churches to work towards better protocols.  It is also true that this Royal Commission is likely to be unwieldy due to its scope.  However, unwieldiness ought to be viewed as an indication of the magnitude of the problem and the necessity for an enquiry, rather than a reason to limit the scope of the enquiry.  Abuse survivors are always best served by openness and acceptance of their trauma rather than denial, obfuscation or glossing over of the issues.

Yours faithfully

 

Clare Pascoe

Clergy Sexual Abuse in Australia/CAVEAS

http://www.clergyabuseaustralia.org


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